In a very well written article by Tim Twentyman, the SEC's Associate Commissioner, Greg Sankey admits the practice of grayshirting by some of his member schools is not appropriate. Our position all along has been that for a coach to go out and offer a ton of kids and tell them all that they might have to grayshirt depending on how things work out on signing day is fraudulent, at best. It is nothing more than a tactic to string kids along and keep them away from competing schools and offers no guarantee of a scholarship; there is a reason why the NLI's Susan Peal doesn't support grayshirting.
The SEC's Sankey admits that the practice of grayshirting by some of his member schools is "not appropriate" and says the SEC is considering adopting stricter measures on how recruits are counted.
"This year, we saw a couple circumstances where there was really late notice to student-athletes about programs' desire for them to defer enrollment," Sankey said. "Those circumstances are not appropriate. We don't want to see that type of thing happen.
"Part of the discussion is, 'Is there a way to manage grayshirting that should be out in front of folks?' In a similar way, should we be managing early-enrollment issues in a different way? All of those things mix into this discussion and that's why it takes some time to do some analysis to figure out some reasonable solution for our conference. We've been after this issue since the fall and we have an annual meeting in late May and early June, and I'd expect some potential solutions would be considered."
The article also includes quotes from several coaches, other conference officials, and recruited players who admit they had no idea what oversigning was until someone told them about it.
Madison Heights Madison defensive back Valdez Showers, who signed with Florida in February, said he never once thought about oversigning during his recruitment. He didn't even know such a thing was allowed.
"All I looked at was how many people they signed at my position," he said. "I never really thought about oversigning and I can tell you by experience that recruits aren't really looking at that, either."
Showers did say he was going to make sure future recruits at his high school are aware of the practice and ask the right questions during their recruitment — especially when dealing with some SEC schools.
"I think (oversigning) is real immature and unprofessional by a coach," Showers said. "Why would he recruit this many guys knowing that he's going to mess up another kid's chance of getting another scholarship from another school? I think recruits should start looking at that now."
Saginaw's DeAnthony Arnett, who'll also play in the SEC next season for Tennessee, said he didn't have to worry about having a spot on the team, due to his stature in the recruiting rankings. He is ranked the No. 8 receiver in the country by Scout.com and the No. 12 receiver by Rivals.com. But he said he could empathize with those players that find out too late to do anything about the fact that they are no longer wanted on campus in the fall.
"Some schools like oversigning kids and then giving them grayshirts or telling them to leave, which is wrong," he said. "Whatever your maximum is, that's how many you should be able to sign and not go over that."
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio says that they have never had to tell a kid that he doesn't have a scholarship; he also believes in Jim Tressel's method of giving open scholarships after the spring and summer natural attrition to deserving walk-on players who have earned a scholarship reward.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told The Detroit News that he's never had to tell one of his players that his scholarship no longer exists, and can't imaging having to do so. But Dantonio added that he has to protect his program, which can be accomplished with moderate oversigning.
"My feeling is that as a program, you sign what you think you're going to have, and then there are always opportunities for a non-scholarship player — who's really played himself into a position to play — award him a scholarship, which we've been able to do every single year," Dantonio said.
To be clear, when reading these articles and talking about oversigning, you have to remember that there are two kinds of oversigning: signing more than 85 and signing more than 25. In many cases, like the quote above by Dantonio, coaches are referring to oversigning the 25 not the 85. For example, if a school has 57 returning players on scholarship, they can take on 28 to get to 85, however, 28 is over the 25 limit for a given year. What happens is that 3 of the 28 enroll early and count towards the previous year, then the remaining 25 enroll in the current year and count towards the current class. Therefore, despite going over the 25 limit, the school did not go over the 85 limit. This is what the Big 10 rule of going over by 3 is really there for; not so much to enable schools to abusively go over the 85 limit every year, which in talking to Chad Hawley simply doesn't happen. Our issue has always been going over the 85 because when that happens cuts have to be made; you can go over the 25 and not have to cut anyone as long as there is room in the previous class and guys enroll early.
We encourage you to read the rest of the article and discuss in the comments section. It's amazing that kids today, despite all of the talk in the media and everyone on the Internet, do not know what oversigning is or that it is allowed. Marc's proposal for Truth in Recruiting would definitely eliminate this problem.
Updated: Added quote from Mark Dantonio and commentary on the Big 10 rule for oversigning.